To see ourselves as others do is a concept that can be overrated. You’ll get nowhere if you’re constantly looking over your shoulder, worrying about what other people think. Why give head space to the knee jerk doubters who oppose anything new almost as a matter of principle. Or as the Irish saying goes – “F**k the begrudgers”. (It’s not one you find on decorative tea towels. Nor does it include the Fr Teddish “feck“. But I find it comes in handier more often than the road rising to meet you and being in heaven half an hour before the devil knows you’re dead.)
Seen from Europe the Tea Party phenomenon seems to be fizzing with crazies, bigots, racists, ex witches, anti masturbators, science deniers, the deluded and opportunists. But esteemed blogmates in the United States appear very taken with the Tea Partiers. Not in a blindingly uncritical way, but generally approving. (And to avoid any misunderstanding, I don’t use the word “esteemed” in an ironic way, but genuinely.)
So normal decent hopeful people must surely far outnumber the TP nutters.
The negatives that drive it are clear – unemployment, disillusionment, suspicion of the state – and some nastier strains too. Sure Obama, the Democrats and politicians in general are a disappointment. But leaving aside the wish to punish or lash out, where’s the positive appeal of the Tea Party?
That’s not a rhetorical question? I’m asking for answers.
This is how one respected correspondent, Gary Younge of the (liberal/left) Guardian newspaper, portrays the Tea Party masses – an army facing the wrong way, fighting for an elite that holds them in contempt and works against their interests.
Tea Party supporters want to ‘take their country back’. To where? The party they are voting for and the candidates they back have actively worked to undermine what they really want
Here’s another, crosser voice. George Monbiot is an well known active environmental campaigner in the UK and it’s no surprise to find him launching a broadside from the left. So TP fans may be tempted to write him off. And he is a bit more insulting.
According to George Monbiot, the Tea Party rank and file are passionate well-meaning people who have been duped by the super wealthy. He describes the movement as “one of the biggest exercises in false consciousness the world has seen – and the biggest Astroturf operation in history.”
The Tea Party movement: deluded and inspired by billionaires – By funding numerous rightwing organisations, the mega-rich Koch brothers have duped millions into supporting big business
So as we approach the mid terms on November 2nd, anyone fancy responding to the two pieces above? Maybe we’re getting a bum steer about the Tea Party over in Europe. If so we’re – well, I’m – open to enlightenment. Why are we/Are we getting it so wrong?
I’ll be tuning in to Rhod in America and Dotun to hear how the campaigning pans out.
18 responses to “To see ourselves as others do…”
The DOG pricked up ears and wagged tail to see recognition on Blackwatertown blog. Speaking as a candid canine, the Tea Party is not particularly my bag (no pun intended since I am a loose tea person anyway).
The Tea Party is mostly peopled by individuals who feel strongly about conservative principles – smaller government, less spending, closer alignment with the constitution, etc. They are indeed well-meaning. The true Tea Partiers don’t want it to become a “Party” proper. They see it as a movement – one that gains its strength from a powerful ground swell when needed – a spontaneous, serendipitous coming together of kindred spirits on a mission (kind of reminds one of Kashi cereals “seven grains on a mission”). It preserves a great deal of enthusiasm for the goal ad allows more to participate equally. All I have seen are decent people in large numbers with a few extremist hangers on.
Billionaire backers? This is the first I have heard of them. Billionaires like lobbyists proliferate on both sides of the aisle.
Even Sarah Palin has warned against making the Tea Party a third party.
The US works best with a two party system. We don’t “do” coalition governments. We get confused enough by two parties.
Whatever their ethnic background, most Americans are ordinary “Joes” who are out there trying to get a slice of that fading American dream.
The wealthiest politicos I have known have been democrats and haunt farther left movements. Case in point – the infamous Bernie Madoff late of federal prison:
As late as September of this year, Mr. Madoff was still giving generously to his favorite political cause: the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee headed by New York Sen. Chuck Schumer. Mr. Madoff contributed $25,000 in September, bringing his total donations to the DSCC to $100,000 over the last three years.
Mr. Schumer, who has assiduously cultivated Wall Street for years, also benefited individually from Mr. Madoff’s largesse — taking in $39,000 from the Madoff family for his 1998 and 2004 Senate races.
“The great irony here, from a political perspective, is that Republican lack of oversight allowed a lot of well-connected Democrats — like Madoff — to run wild,” says Joel Kotkin, an urban affairs analyst who is a fellow at the liberal New America Foundation. “Now Obama will have to deal with a series of scandals and meltdowns that have taken place within a financial community — particularly hedge funds which may be the next locus of the financial crisis — that have been tilting what is now considered ‘left.’ It was so much simpler in the old days when the GOP could be easily identified as the party of ‘big greed’ while most Democrats concentrated on ‘little greed,’ like government payoffs and sweetheart contracts.” [http://johnrlott.blogspot.com/2008/12/bernard-madoff-democrat.html]
So the DOG has retrieved more information than most people want to know. “Deal with it.” Dogs are definite personalities. 😀
Paul, if I had a good explanation for the Tea Party phenomenon, I’d be on CNN rather than penning a photo blog. I’ll second samhenry in that most of those who identify as tea partiers are just normal people who are fed up with the direction we’re heading, and frankly a bit frightened. We’re in a series of seemingly endless wars, with precious little to show for the blood and gold wasted. Our jobs have been exported under the mantra of ‘free trade’, our borders are a joke, the demographic shift over the past four decades has been seismic, and regardless of which party we vote for, nothing changes, nothing improves.
I am a natural born cynic, socially liberal, fiscally conservative, and I attended a Tea Party rally. My hope was that it would be a gathering of like minded individuals, fed up with the current state of affairs, demanding both parties shape up and start listening to all Americans, and not just those with deep pockets. What I encountered was an event hijacked by the Republican party, bashing the Obama administration, and screaming the standard tripe about family values, patriotism, and small government. Most went along with this, although there were a few in the crowd who were as disgusted as I.
The feeling of being manipulated, lied to, and used is palpable in this country. I’m not sure what is needed to change it, or if it’s even possible to change it at this point. To me, the Tea Party represents this feeling, and is powered by a mass of unfocused anger. This may work to the advantage of the Republican party, as they try to control the movement and use it against the Democrats. It may also backfire on them, splitting the conservative vote and allowing the Dems two more years. Either way, given the current anger among the electorate, the chance of a reasoned, rational outcome for the Tea Party is questionable.
Excellent post, Paul!
If I was physically able, I would attend John Stewart’s “Rally to Restore Sanity.” http://www.rallytorestoresanity.com/ My daughter is planning to go and I’m looking forward to hearing about it from her. Too many Americans lack critical thinking skills and wind up as easy prey for those promoting insane and extreme agendas.
I agree wholeheartedly with Gary Younge – I’ve been saying to anyone who will listen that the Tea Party, as he puts it, is “an army facing the wrong way, fighting for an elite that holds them in contempt and works against their interests.” He hits the nail right on the head. A grand deception.
Actually, If they did make them decorative tea towels,I would buy one & dry my dishes with pride!
The Tea Party is American citizens who refuse to be controlled by anyone. We are fed up with big government, high taxes, and runaway spending.
Our government now has a product called National Healthcare. Americans have been told that if we don’t have health insurance we MUST purchase the government plan or be fined.
This is not freedom; this is not the American way.
We are listening to the Republicans because NOT ONE of them voted for this bill.
There is also the bailouts, stimulus, etc.
Strange how no one is complaining that we MUST purchase auto insurance…
Samhenry and exileimaging did an excellent job describing the frustration that currently permeates our country. It’s too bad that exileimagining had such a negative experience at the Tea Party Rally. He sought answers in a group of people who he thought were like-minded individuals and went away disillusioned. I do believe though, that the majority of people associated with the Tea Party movement are just regular folks seeking answers of their own. I have not been to one of their rallies, nor am I associated with the movement, but I am among those who want smaller government and less spending. I think for the most part that is the focus of the tea party supporters.
It’s really too bad that all of us have a tendency to label each other’s party, movement, rally, etc. by the naysayers and extremists. But that is human nature – label and judge based on those who make the most noise, and not necessarily on reality. I appreciate the fact that you are seeking ‘enlightenment’. We should all be so prudent before casting our opinion out into the world. Maybe we’d find that the majority of us are fairly like-minded, or at least capable of meeting in the middle. As for the Tea Party – I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.
The Tea Party thinking scares me a little.
Mostly because it has caught my husband’s attention, and he is not usually very interested in politics.
As an English teacher, I don’t have much to add to the political discussion (I think people have done a rather good job handling it here); I would only add that the quality of students writing that I have seen over the last 20 years has declined. Our “No Child Left Behind” policy has failed us and, in fact, it has left us in a worse position than when it was discussed at the end of the 1980s. Teachers have lost their autonomy and must teach to standardized tests. It’s hard to explain how much valuable time one loses when that is happening.
So a lot of people are unhappy about a lot of things: the mythical American Dream has imploded, and it will take a long time for people to recover. We are suffering economic hardships; education is a mess; our health system is a shambles. We have suffered environmental disasters and natural disasters. We have an enormous deficit. Folks are getting restless, and they are searching, searching, searching for new leaders with bigger and better promises.
If Americans aren’t careful, we will find ourselves repeating history because these are the same conditions that gave Post World War I Germany Adolph Hitler.
Did I say The Tea Party scares me a little? I meant to say the Tea Party scares me a lot. And it scares me that people like my husband are listening.
Come visit me at “Lessons from Teachers and Twits”
Thanks Paul I’m as curious as you and feel cautious about jumping to conclusions about this. I found Samhenry’s response very useful. But if the Tea Party is a serendipidous movement of well-meaning types, why no Tea Party to oppose bad decisions regarding wars or speak out honestly on environmental concerns (at least with the same loud voice)? Or can the large liberal cultural and political output during the Bush years be seen as equivalent in some way?
I am happy as a former info scientist that you found my response very useful – comelybankingcrisis.
My concern is to try to describe it accurately and then to see if people can’t interact with it reasonably and without fear.
There is too much fear and mistrust of our fellow Americans today. We had better determine the most effective ways to overcome this or end up living with a political construct with which no one is happy.
This is one of those times when I’m humbled at the response to a question.Thanks all for taking the time to lay out your thoughts and experiences so clearly. I do feel enlightened.
It’s particularly good to hear from the horse’s mouth, a first hand account of an event – so thanks for sharing your rally experience exileimaging.
I hope the decent “poor bloody foot soldiers” in the TP movement feel they’ve been well served by their leaders when they look back in the months ahead. Their unhappiness and mobilisation have provided the opportunity for the well-placed pundits and politicos to rise on the back of the TP. I’d feel happier about it if those individuals seemed more deserving (and in some cases, less odd) and took more pains to represent decency and reject the sinister fringes of the TP.
But bubbling up mass movements can be understandably difficult to control – and that lack of control may be an attraction in itself. How much better though if TP gatherings were the sort of places where exileimaging felt at home and extremists did not. But perhaps a decent majority will assert itself and be seen to assert itself in the future.
(As an aside, Maxi mentioned healthcare insurance. It’s difficult from this side of the Atlantic to see why it is such an appalling vista. But, perhaps that’s another issue I have to bone up on.)
It’ll be an interesting week. Happy voting, those who are eligible.
In the meantime, I’ll keep an eye open for an appropriate tea towel for Tony.
Sorry I think they’re nutters. Then I’m not a political animal, I’ll let Sam Henry speak for me. He makes so much more sense. Americans as a group are paranoid. Individually, they’re really quite nice.
As election results roll in, it looks like we have some nutters being elected. Did I mention I was scared?
But not Christine O’Donnell it looks like. (Final result not yet in.) Who are you thinking of in particular Renée?
I saw this remark on the BBC website, from someone identified as JD, in Nevada. He or she says:
“Obama might be loved in Belgium, [not sure why Belgium, but I guess Belgium = Europe in general] but he’s loathed in every part of America that is not a large urban city. Europe will not understand the results, because they don’t understand the premise. America has been written off many times in the past 200 years, but it’s very self-cleansing. Tonight you’ll hear a massive flushing sound for the left.”
The bit about Europe not understanding the result may well be true.
I read this post with considerable interest and I do have some in-depth views on the subject which I feel strongly about. BUT I will refrain from exercising my supposed right to free speech as regards this subject, as there are too many Tea Party Extremists out there who have “hammered” moi for daring to be British and have an opinion/view on American politics, and worse one that does not agree with the Tea Party views. My right to free speech is apparantly waived in their supporters eyes. So I will settle for saying I am a staunch Obama supporter, warts an’ all. He and his party are not perfect but who is? 🙂
I am a staunch Obama supporter, too. Not all Americans have a tea party “every man for himself” approach to politics. Much to my relief my little state voted for progress last week. We may be bucking a national trend but at least some of us feel like we’re all in this together…
I am the lone American right-winger on the Jordanian blogosphere, a social and fiscal conservative. It’s a little weird to be such a maligned minority…maybe how Muslims feel about us right-wingers.
I like the energy of the Tea Party, and I went to a town-hall meeting this summer to meet my Republican congressman. Our district didn’t have any tea-partiers, just plain old red Republicans. Who I voted for. 🙂
All are welcome here – red, blue or other. I feel as though I’m learning a lot.